Industrialization, Mass Consumption, Post-industrial Society

Donna Hirsch

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199237395
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Industrialization, Mass Consumption, Post-industrial Society


This article provides an overview of post-industrial German society. how industrialization came across, mass consumption, and how the post-industrial German society fared. Framed by the postwar crisis and early Cold War rivalry, debate about the future of German class society began almost as soon as the war ended. Americans assured despairing Germans that the ‘free market’ would generate prosperity and foster social fairness. Communists promised the hungry masses that expropriation and the nationalization of industry would create social equality and forge economic expansion. After 1949, the two Germanys continued to embody competition between capitalism and communism. The fate of class society in each state always provoked debate, with several points of consensus emerging from a discussion increasingly centered on social and economic data, not crude propaganda. Both societies experienced an attenuation of socially-distinctive life styles. An assessment of the change and continuity in German society between 1945 and 1990 concludes this article.

Keywords: industrialization; mass-consumption; post-war crisis; Cold War; free market; capitalism; communism

Article.  11765 words. 

Subjects: History

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